Introduction and back-ground
This is the story of Calle’s and Voji’s hang-gliding trip to Ölüdeniz (Ö D) in the Turkish southwest Mediterranean coast to fly hang gliders during Ölüdeniz International Airgames. The Airgames has happened every year in mid-October since 1999 (except in 2020 due to the Corona pandemic). It is well-known for Paragliding and base-jumping. The 1900 m high mountain called Babadag at Ö D is the main reason for coming here.
Calle: In spring 2019, I decided to take up hang gliding again after 15 years of only flying ultralight airplanes. I had been longing back for the sensation of free flying like a bird since many years. I met Ingemar Boström, the Hang-gliding instructor at the Stockholm Hang gliding club. He is a very skilled instructor and a very nice guy. He put me thru the standard beginner’s exercises, so I could ”de-rust” and recover a basic “Student”-license to begin with. In September 2019, I did my first high-altitude flight in Ö D for 15 years. That was extremely exciting, especially at launch, but the flight was wonderful. I just landed short of the landing area between some umbrellas. No damages, though. In october 2020, I persuaded Voji to join me on a trip to Ö D. That year, I didn’t get to fly because the Turkish hang glider instructors didn’t have a suitable glider I could rent.
Voji started hang gliding in 2020 when he attended Ingemar’s complete beginners’ course and became a member of Stockholm Hang gliding club. For Voji, this trip was his second to Ö D. In October 2020, Voji got 3 tandem flight lessons with a Turkish instructor in Ölüdeniz, and after that made his very first solo flight from high altitude at Babadag. The instructor supervised the flight from a nearby Paraglider, using radio.
October 16, 2021 – I arrived from Finike, Voji arrived from Stockholm
I had been at my sailboat at a marina in Finike since October 3. Before I left Stockholm, I had made a deal with a Turkish hang glider pilot (Özgür) to fly his glider (a Spyder) during the Airgames week. He had told me he trusted me to do this because I am currently flying a WW Sport 2, which he also had been flying before he purchased the Spyder. He told me the Spyder is faster than the Sport 2 but that he believed I should be able to handle it. I compared both gliders’ test reports on DHV.de and concluded I should be able to handle it, if I keep in mind the higher (stall) speed and a longer final glide when landing.
Another exciting thing this year is that the cable car system is now in operation. They had been building it for some years. Last year (2020) Voji and I were very impressed to see the top stations with restaurants, bars, toilets, observation decks, fishpond with a glass-floor walkway above it, helicopter platform at the 1900 m and a much better road.
Voji had newly purchased his Finsterwalder Airfex glider and had flown it only 3 times at Salanda before going to Ö D. He loved it. All three landings at Salanda had been perfect! The Airfex can short pack to 1,85 m. Turkish Airlines accepts a max length of 2,0 m for sports equipment on this flight, which is why I couldn’t bring my glider.
Coming with the bus from Finike via picking up the rental car at the Otogar (bus station) in Fethiye, I checked in at the Blue Lagoon Deluxe Hotel in Ölüdeniz (impressive name!). The lady at the reception greeted me “Welcome back, sir”. It was the same hotel Voji and I had stayed at last year. It’s a very nice hotel with very attractive prices and friendly staff.
After settling in my room, I walked 6 minutes down to the beach and said hello to Kadri at the Cloud 9 Beach Bar & restaurant. Kadri is one of the owners of the place and the creator of the Airgames Festival. He is still the most important person in the Airgames’ organisation since the local community (Belediye) of Fethiye took over the control of it all about 6 years ago. Since then, there are no ultralight Trikes landing on the beach or the sea and no low passes over the village and the beach with an AN2 Russian biplane.
I looked up towards the top of Babadag mountain and could see there were some clouds accumulating. Also, it looked like rain clouds were coming in from the sea.
Our plan was to let Voji do his initial flights under not so crowded circumstances before the Airgames start on October 20. Özgür, the Turkish pilot who had promised me to fly his Spyder glider, was not expected to arrive before the 20:th so until then I could focus fully on assisting Voji so he would be in good flying trim before the crowds arrive.
On the 20:th, when the Airgames begins, there will be a thousand (?) Paraglider pilots, Skydivers, Wingsuit-flyers and (3) Hang glider pilots who will be filling the sky and the beach-walk. Among the other tourists, there were many Brits and Russians here.
Late in the evening I drove the rented Dacia Duster to Fethiye Otogar (bus station) to pick up Voji who arrived with a Turkish Airlines flight from Stockholm, bringing his glider.
October 17, 2021 – Finding a ladder and rigging the Airfex
After a very enjoyable, and in Voji’s case much needed, buffet breakfast we drove up to Hisarönü village and found a nice ladder in a hardware store (360 TL). On the way, we had some bad luck with the car. At a lawn in front of a Paragliding centre (“La Puta”!), we unpacked the glider and spread all the parts on the lawn. This would be the second time we restored it to long-packed status. Voji checked the instruction video he had saved. After about 45 minutes we had it correctly assembled. We checked everything two times, made a test run and then we arranged with the hang-strap length to correctly adjust it to Voji’s new harness, which he had never used before.
Soon it was dark. We packed the glider to its “new” length of 5 meters, loaded it onto the ladder on the car’s roof-rack, drove to our hotel and parked. Then we walked down to Bella Gusto restaurant at the beach and ordered a beer, a glass of wine and the menu.
October 18, 2021 – Up to the top of Babadag, the father mountain!
After an early breakfast at the hotel, we drove up to the launch sites. It is a trip of 35-40 minutes on a narrow and winding road up the 1900 m high Mt Babadag. The road has been much improved during the last few years, especially during the construction of the cable car system and all the restaurants and other facilities at the launch sites. First part of the drive, up to about 1400 meters, goes thru dense forest. The rest of the way up to the top station at 1900 meters is quite scary (if you fear hights), although the road is of good quality with paved stones. (After some days, I got used to it).
We arrived first at the 1700 m station, which is the main launch site towards the south and the sea. We stepped out and walked to the large, paved launch area and absorbed the fantastic view towards the sea and the beach (the far end is barely visible). There were almost no people here, because the wind was not suitable for launching here right now. Soon we proceeded up to 1900 m station.
Arriving at the 1900 m station we saw crowds of Paraglider pilots all over the place, preparing their gear for launch. We parked the car, unloaded Voji’s glider and looked at the totally amazing view to the mountains to the north. Walking around the top station’s terrace, we could see the city of Fethiye and, across the bay, all the way to the small islands at the western end of Fethiye bay, 30 km away. Fantastic view!
It was about 10 degrees colder than at the beach. We walked back to where we put Voji’s glider and started to carry it towards the gate which separated us from the launch area which is accessible only to pilots. A Turkish man with “Security-” something written on his jacket then came walking to us and said, “You going to fly kanat?”. (Delta kanat is Hang glider in Turkish). I replied “Yes, my friend is going to fly his Hang glider, Delta Kanat”. Then the man said “I am sorry, but a special permission is required to fly Kanat”.
“This cannot be correct””, I said. We are registered as Hang glider pilots in the Airgames. Can you please call the person responsible for the Airgames and check?”.
The guy made a telephone call and then told me the Belediye (the city council) of Fethiye, which is responsible for the Airgames, had decided this. We must get a permission from the Tourist information office in Fethiye. “The permission must be written on a paper. You must go to Fethiye and get it”.
To make a long story short: We drove the 35 minutes down the mountain and then headed to Fethiye and found the tourist information office. I explained our problem to a lady who could speak reasonably good English. She told us she had never heard about such a permission, and that she was not able to issue one. I then called Kadri at Cloud9 bar and explained our problem to him. He told me he didn’t know of any permission needed to fly hang gliders and promised to investigate the matter urgently. He told us to come back to Ö D and meet with him.
We had lunch at a quay-side restaurant where all thee excursion boats were moored before we headed towards Ö D. ”Maybe there is still hope”, I said.
In the middle of the busy traffic in Fethiye, we met Tugrul, “Voji’s” H G instructor. He invited us for coffee in his home. His apartment was very nice with a large balcony overlooking all Fethiye Bay. “I think it can be fixed. I will talk to some people”, he told us.
“We will arrange with a better landing site, specially intended for Hang gliders”. We thanked Tugrul for trying to fix this, walked out and drove back to Ö D.
October 19, 2021 – Arranging the new H G landing area
After breakfast, all three of us walked to the pilot registration tent (Özgür was staying at the same hotel). At the registration tent there were already lots of people in line for the registration. Özgür talked to a guy who collected a roll of white/red plastic ribbon and he said “Now, let’s go to the beach!”. “-What’s happening”, I asked Özgur. “We are going to create the new official landing area for hang gliders”, he replied.
After a 10 minutes’ walk, we stopped at the beach, opposite of the Jandarma (local police) station, the same spot where Voji had landed last year on his first solo flight. We started to put poles and move parasols to mark the corners and clear the landing area. Özgür instructed Voji to register the GPS position of each of the corners with his phone. “These coordinates will be sent to the Turkish Hang-gliding organisation. They will then send it to the Belediye and the Airgames’ committee with a formal request of creating a permanent landing area for Hang-gliders”.
We fastened the plastic ribbon along all the poles, parasols and whatever we could attach it onto. Finally, we attached short strips of ribbon every 10 meters to make it all more visible. The new landing area was now about 200 meters long and should per se be enough. We agreed it will be necessary to come in for the final at maximum 10 meters above the roof of that restaurant not to overshoot the whole landing area.
On the way back to the beach-walk, we met Tugrul (the instructor). He smiled and told us “You are allowed to fly, beginning tomorrow morning.“ We were all very happy now.
Later, in the evening when we strolled at the beach-walk, looking at all the Paragliders landing everywhere all the time, Özgür came to us and said, “I was just informed that our Hang-gliding association does not allow you to fly the Spyder, Carl.” The reason was that they consider it too big a risk for an accident because I am not used to flying this kind of advanced glider and my license is on a low level (“Elevlicens” = “Student licence”).
This evening, we had a nice dinner at Bella Gusto. Voji was happy and ordered a steak. I ordered a pasta dish and a beer. I was not equally happy, but the beer helped a little.
October 20, 2021 – The Airgames starts
After we all had finished breakfast, we collected our flight gear, jumped into the car, and drove down towards the beach. We found a parking close to the registration tent and walked from there. The street was crowded with cars, some minibuses were already preparing to take a bunch of Paraglider pilots with all their gear up to the launch sites. A lot of people were already in line for the pilot registration. When it was our turn, Özgür talked to a lady who checked our pilot pre-registration (which we did before leaving Stockholm) on the computer system, checked our passports and Hang-gliding licenses.
After a couple of minutes’ waiting, she gave us our Airgames Pilot ID-cards with a photo.
“These cards say we are members of the Hang-gliding Show team!”, I said. We also got a small bag with the Airgames’ T-shirt etc.
The Swedish-Turkish Hang-Gliding Show Team: Pilots: Özgür and Voji. Ground Services: Calle. We also each received a diploma and small “Boarding card” which is needed to pass through the gates, separating the launch area from the general touristic areas at the launch sites. This is very well organized, I was thinking. “Now, Let’s go to Babadag!”.
After 30 minutes’ driving uphill, we first arrived at the 1700 m station. There were almost no people, except the security guards and the staff at the restaurant. We decided to enjoy the fabulous view towards the open sea and the beach while observing the wind direction and having a cup of coffee at the restaurant’s view-terrace. There was no wind. Özgür had been talking to the security personnel and was now coming towards us.
Simultaneously, a group of people in parade uniforms carrying music instruments came walking. It was the orchestra for the Grand Opening Ceremony, which according to tradition happens here at the 1700 m launch every year. Özgür told us we must go to the 1900 m launch site because here the wind is unsuitable, and we will not be able to launch while the opening ceremony is going on. We finished the coffee and drove up towards the 1900 m launch site. Very nice, paved road all the way up.
Arriving at the 1900 m launch site we could see there was a lot of people and cars. We managed to park the car close to the gates to the south-facing launch. Just outside from here is the top station’s Helicopter platform (nice top-landing site). We unloaded the gliders and the harnesses from the car and walked to the gate to the launch area. This is the very top of Babadag, 1900 meters, where Voji made his tandem flights with Tugrul last year. We slipped our boarding passes through the card reader on the gate and walked down thru the crowd of Paraglider pilots to the far end of the rigging area. Here Voji and Özgür can rig their gliders. We were the only hang-glider pilots around.
After rigging I asked Özgür to assist Voji with launching and told them I will drive down to the landing site and prepare for recording their landings. After 35 minutes, I was back down at the beach. Soon, the landing site’s part of the opening ceremony approached: 4 Paragliders with back-pack motors (so called Paramotors) flying in formation along the seashore, carrying large flags. I walked forth and back in the warm sand for about 30 minutes, now and then looking up towards the mountain. Then, very high up, more than 1000 meters high and a little bit outside the shore, I could see a hang glider moving.
About ten minutes later Voji turned to his final approach from above the Blue Lagoon, as it’s called (actually “ÖlüDeniz” means Dead Sea) and headed towards the landing area where I was standing. I lifted my phone, started the video recording.
Voji came in far too high above the restaurant’s roof and landed 100 meters after the end of the landing area. I ran to Voji and said, “Good landing, but outside the closed landing area”. “It was a wonderful flight. I could relax up there and do the different exercises as you recommended. The glider feels very good in the handling!”, he said.
I walked back to the midpoint of the landing area, waiting for Özgür to land while Voji started rigging down his glider.
Soon I could see Özgür’s glider very high up. He was obviously flying at a higher speed than Voji and much faster than the paragliders. After 10 minutes he was above the sea, just outside the shore (not above the lagoon), doing some 360 turns to bring down his altitude. Then he made a right-turn to final and passed over the restaurant’s roof very low (which was the plan). I was recording, of course. He dived after passing the volleyball net a flew straight thru the plastic ribbon, breaking it. “Wow, what a speed!”. Voji was watching from his landing position, outside the end of the landing area. Özgür landed about 5 meters before the ribbon marking the end of strip. A good landing.
After the guys had packed their gliders down, I said “Let’s go to the car park and load the stuff onto the car and drive up for your next flight”. Özgür replied “I’m happy for today, let’s have lunch and relax. Tomorrow we will do two flights!”. Voji agreed to this.
During the lunch we discussed the landings and agreed to make all future landings at the other end of the beach, the closed nature reserve part of the beach. In worst case, we will have to pay the entrance fee.
In the evening we strolled around the beach-walk, watching the last Paragliders land at sunset and soon it was time for dinner. Bella Gusto was preferred once again.
For the rest of the week, the 21:st thru the 23: rd of October, Voji and Özgür made two flights each day. I was driving the car and assisting Voji at the launches (except when Özgür did and I was at the beach, recording the landings).
All flights where successful, although Voji made some belly-landings on the sand. In those cases, it’s very good to fly a glider with very low stall speed. That saves wear on the belly-part of the harness. Some landings where perfect, though. Only one launch was scary, because he was too eager to get away and launched in almost zero wind from the 1900 m north-facing site. He learned to fly quite well during these 4 days with 7 flights!
This Airgames week ends on the 24:th but Voji’s flight back home is in the morning the same day, my flight home will leave on the 25:th, so I had one more day. I spent my last day doing a cable car trip up to the 1700 m station (cost 80 TL, well worth it!), lunch at the view-terrace and then enjoying being a normal tourist at the beach, not having to drive a car up and down the mountain two times each day.
For the rest of this story, with the next 6 flights, you must see my video documentary (3 parts, about 20 minutes’ each) on Youtube. I am sure you will enjoy the beautiful views, the launches, the flights, and the landings recorded by Voji’s glider-mounted GoPro cam.
My Airgames video 2021, part 1:
My Airgames video 2021, part 2:
My Airgames video 2021, part 3:
It was a wonderful trip although it started with some trouble with the car (it’s in the part one of the video). I didn’t get to fly this time either, but I enjoyed it anyway and we got a new friend, Özgür, a very nice and helpful guy and a highly skilled hang glider pilot.
Voji accumulated a total of 140 minutes airtime from his 7 flights and took a giant leap forward in his Hang-gliding career (but a very small step for me).
The feared crowds of Paragliders were not such a big problem as you might think. It is possible to launch in a safe way although the launch site sometimes is crowded. Landing at the far end of the beach is easy because there are no obstacles for a stretch of 500 m and almost no people. In the future, there will hopefully even be a good landing site for hang-gliders on the public part of the beach.
It is possible to bring a glider on the flight to Ö D. TUIs direct flights from Stockholm to Dalaman International airport cost 3500 SEK. Bringing the glider costs around 700 SEK (maximum 4,0 m length and 50 kgs weight). The flights run from mid-May until September 27. This means it’s not possible to be there during the Airgames, but that’s only all the better! The Airgames week is fun but Hang gliders should stay out of the crowds for added safety. You should come here between May and September. Before we decide to come back to Ö D, we will check carefully so there are no circumstances prohibiting flying hang-gliders from Babadag. Voji and I will keep in touch with Özgür, Tugrul and Kadri and hope to come back in September 2022 and fly a lot! We will be very happy if you join us. We can arrange it, it’s a perfect end-of-season trip. Swedish “Elevlicens” is enough according to the SHF “Verksamhetshandbok” (Plats-bunden flygning eftersom man ser landningen från starten, Hangflygning ej nödvändigt). If you want to know more about flying in Ölüdeniz, don’t hesitate to ask me or Voji!